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GEOL353 Earth Evolution and Plate Tectonics

 Examining the spectacular outcrop of the Alpine Fault at Gaunt Creek
Examining the spectacular outcrop of the Alpine Fault at Gaunt Creek

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Study planetary differentiation, composition and tectonic processes to learn how Earth has evolved from the formation of the Solar System to modern-day plate tectonics.

This paper explores tectonic systems and how these have shaped Earth, from the beginning of Earth to the modern day. They will bring together data from different geological disciplines to address topics such as planetary accretion, planet differentiation, mantle convection, the origin of subduction, mountain building, formation of continental and oceanic crust, and Zealandia tectonics.

Paper title Earth Evolution and Plate Tectonics
Paper code GEOL353
Subject Geology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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EAOS 111 and/or GEO112, and 72 200-level points from Science Schedule C
Schedule C
Students must be prepared to attend field trips outside of regular semester time.

Teaching staff

To be advised.

Paper Structure

Topics covered include:

  • Earth origins:
    • Earth's elements and age
    • Earth differentiation and the Late Heavy Bombardment
    • Earth from petrological and geophysical perspectives
    • First continental crust and subduction initiation
  • Plate tectonics on a sphere
  • Mantle melting:
    • Oceanic lithosphere and mid-ocean ridges
    • Do mantle plumes exist?
    • Ocean island basalts
    • Large igneous provinces
  • Thermal evolution of orogenic belts
Teaching Arrangements

Two lectures and one lab per week
Optional tutorials
One fieldtrip


Textbooks are not required for this paper.

Course outline

GEOL353-Tectonics-outline (previous syllabus indicative of content next time the paper is taught)

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Specific learning outcomes are:
  • Integrated and quantitative understanding of tectonic systems and tectonic processes
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Quantitative skills
  • Teamwork skills

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 16-22
Thursday 08:00-08:50 9-13, 16-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 09:00-11:50 9-13, 16-22